Experiments show that organic trace minerals have several beneficial effects in cows


by Per Theilgaard, ruminant technical manager,

Organic trace minerals improve hoof health

For a whole year, Vitfoss tested two types of organic trace minerals in twenty Danish herds to determine whether there were any differences in their effectiveness. In the experiment, organic trace minerals (Availa) were compared to trace minerals chelated with the amino acid glycine (glycinates). The organic trace minerals noticeably reduced the number of hoof disorders and reduced cell counts. The same positive reactions were not observed in cows receiving glycinates.


Figure 1: Locomotion scoring of dairy cows. Zinpro©

Trace minerals and hoofs

To assess the state of hoof health, the lameness of the lactating cows was assessed three times during the experiment: at the beginning of the experiment, midway through the experiment and at the end of the experiment. A lameness rating assesses the state of hoof health using a scale of 1 to 5 (figure 1). This means that a “1” rating is given to cows with a straight line of the back, both when standing and walking, which is a sign of good hoof health. At the opposite end of the scale, a “5” rating is given to cows, which are severely lame and which try to relieve the pressure on their hoofs when standing still. When organic trace minerals were added to the diet, the lameness rating declined by roughly 10%, and the number of severely lame cows (rating 4 or 5) declined even further by 23% (table 1). This means that the number of cows whose milk yields were demonstrably and negatively impacted by hoof health was reduced by 23% after adding Availa to the diet.


Tabel 1 Average lameness rating and the percentage of severely lame cows (rating 4 and 5), at the start, after 6 months and after 12 months respectively.
  Average lameness rating Percentage of severely lame cows
Start 1,8 12,4
After 6 months 1,7 9,5
After 12 months 1,6 9,6
Improvement -10% -23%


The hoof trimmer also recorded hoof disorders within the herds participating in the experiment, and the respective effects of the organic trace minerals and the glycinates were therefore assessed based on the hoof trimmer’s observations. The result of these reports showed that there were more hoof disorders among cows receiving glycinates than among cows receiving Availa. Availa trace minerals reduced hoof disorders by roughly two percent compared to the previous year, and the percentage reduction of recorded hoof disorders was thus around 17% (figure 2).


Figure 2: Percentage of cows with hoof disoreders recorded in the cattle database during the dosing of Availa trace minerals and glycinates respectively.



Figure 4: Comparision of ECM in cows during dosing of Availa trace minerals and glycinates respectively in the period June 2013 to May 2014.

Lower somatic cell count and more milk

Somatic cell count (SCC) were significantly reduced in the group receiving Availa microminerals and also the frequency of high SCC (more than 200,000) were reduced (figure 3).The reduction in this trial was around 12 percent. This corresponds to the level found in a meta analysis (Rabbie et al., 2010). The milk yield was approx. 1 kg ECM higher for the Availa group (figure 4). This corresponds to the 0.9 kg ECM found in the meta analysis.



Figure 3:Comparision of level for cell count in cows during dosing of Availa and glycinates respectively in the period June 2013 til May 2014.

Many types of trace minerals

It is well-known that organic trace minerals are generally more readily absorbable compared to the comparable trace minerals oxides and sulphates. This is due to the fact that the trace mineral, such as zinc, is chelated to a group of amino acids, which increases the rate of absorption through the intestinal wall, while at the same time preventing the trace mineral from forming complex compounds with other substances and thus reducing absorbability.

Organic trace minerals are a wide concept, however, covering several types such as chelates from soy protein and glycinates. These different types of organic trace minerals are fundamentally different physically and for this reason can also have different absorption rates and effects. Availa’s amino acids are derived from soy protein and therefore contain all 21 amino acids, which have different paths of absorption through the digestive tract. Glycinates, on the other hand, are metal ions that are only chelated to the amino acid glycine, which is not an essential amino acid.

The experiment confirmed that there are differences in the quality of organic trace minerals, and that Availa’s trace minerals will improved hoof health and reduce somatic cell count. Therefore, this is a fine option for optimising the production of your herd.